'If that's your attitude you can f*** off': Apprentice claims unfair dismissal

Author
Kirsty Wynn, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 16 Jan 2020, 8:32PM
(Photo / 123RF)
(Photo / 123RF)

'If that's your attitude you can f*** off': Apprentice claims unfair dismissal

Author
Kirsty Wynn, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 16 Jan 2020, 8:32PM

An apprentice electrician who claimed his boss told him to "f***-off now" during a heated argument said the outburst meant he had been fired.

Rafe Fannin filed an unjustified dismissal claim with the Employment Relations Authority saying he suffered hurt and humiliation with Whangarei company Liddington Electrical.

Fannin - a former Auckland Grammar School teacher, has criminal convictions for credit card fraud and identity theft.

In February 2016, he was sentenced to 9 months home detention and ordered to repay just over half of the $67,000 fraudulently obtained.

He served his sentence before starting at work at Liddington Electrical in August 2018.

His teaching registration was cancelled.

Apprentice Rafe Fannin claims he was told to 'f**k off' by his boss because of criminal convictions.

Apprentice Rafe Fannin claims he was told to 'f**k off' by his boss because of criminal convictions.

The former teacher worked for the company from August to November 2018 and said the expletives came during a disagreement about his previous criminal convictions - and whether he had disclosed them during his job interview.

Fannin told the authority he was never asked about criminal convictions during the interview but Liddington, whose company has sensitive contracts with Government departments, said he asks all prospective employees.

He told the Authority Fannin answered the question with a "No, all sweet Bro."

It wasn't until months later, when Fannin was to sign an employment agreement he told Liddington there was a problem with signing the agreement because he had "minor
criminal convictions."

Liddington told the Authority he was shocked because he had specifically asked Fannin whether he had criminal convictions when he interviewed him.

He was told that he had none.

That evening Liddington did an internet search of Fannin's name and discovered his convictions were not minor, but serious.

Liddington said he asked Fannin about the convictions the next day and Fannin attempted to underplay the severity, claiming they were "just credit card fraud".

The ERA heard conflicting stories from Fannin and Liddington.

What is agreed is that there were heated discussions between Liddington and Fannin on November 20 and 21, 2018, about the criminal convictions.

Fannin said he attempted to come to an arrangement with Liddington whereby he would voluntarily resign if Liddington agreed to sign off his remaining job units.

This meant he could complete his apprenticeship and set up his own business as
an electrician.

Liddington refused Fannin's request with the argument ending when Liddington said:
"Well if that is your attitude you can f*** off now."

Fannin took this to mean he had been dismissed.

He says he went home and recorded his version of events.

Liddington denied swearing and disputed Fannin's claims. He said Fannin had serious criminal convictions which he failed to disclose at the job interview when asked.

When Liddington became aware of the criminal convictions, Fannin attempted to negotiate an exit from Liddington Electrical in a manner that Liddington considered amounted to blackmail.

Liddington said Fannin resigned before he was able to properly consider the situation.

Fannin said he suffered hurt and humiliation as a result of his dismissal.

He also accused a friend of Liddington of distributing pamphlets in his neighbourhood about him which he considered to be defamatory.

He sought compensation for the hurt and humiliation he said he suffered.

The Authority also found that during their period of investigation Fannin's sister sent Liddington's lawyer "an improper communication".

The letter referred to defamation and threatened to file a suit with the Human Rights Tribunal asking for $200,000 in compensatory remedies for damages from Liddington.

The letter stated: "This claim and the one against Liddington Electrical will be dropped if Mr Fannin receives $50,000 from Liddington Electrical by 15th November.

"Please notify your client of this offer. He has seven days to accept."

The Authority considered the letter to be "an attempt blackmail Mr Liddington".

"Whether or not the threat did amount to blackmail is not a matter for the Authority to determine, it is a criminal matter," the Authority said.

The Authority found Mr Rafe Fannin was not dismissed but he voluntarily resigned from his employment.

It stated: "He does not have an employment relationship problem."